Leadership dynamics in Corporate America are undergoing major changes, and if todays’ leaders want to impact organizations tomorrow, they must adapt strategies, recognize and accept change, and boldly move forward with a new leadership style.
Among the forces influencing leadership changes:
Technology. We already know that technology has revolutionized work and enabled new ways of doing things. It has given rise to widespread global connectivity, provided instant access to data and information, from anywhere, anytime, and has led to the creation of collaboration tools, giving new competitors lower barriers to enter the competitive marketplace.
Organizational design. Mid-management layers have been eliminated so top management today is closer to individual contributors. Leaders must evolve with four different generations in the workforce with real diversity, multiple and different motivations, and mixed demographics. This brings challenges in attracting, developing, and retaining talent.
Further, some leadership practices have become, or on their way to becoming, obsolete, including:
- Top down management
- Doing it my way or the company way; being directive and controlling
- Rigid management/micromanaging
- Decisions made only at the top
- Defined work with individual work units
- More time in the office and in inner circles
- Expected loyalty
- Annual performance reviews and raises
A little over a decade ago, we didn’t have smartphones, Facebook, Chatter, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and other social media that have significantly altered the way people connect, communicate, and build relationships.
Leadership today must change and evolve with the times, and this means being able to relate to younger generations. Millennials, with numbers at around 86 million, now represent the largest generation in the workforce. Consider the following vis-à-vis Millennials and employers:
1. They are far less loyal to an employer than generations before them have been. No psychological contract exists between them and their employer. They have a different way of viewing work, and it includes incorporate other activities into their time (travel, leisure time, and community service, for example) that might have otherwise been reserved for “usual” work hours.
2. They are team- and group-oriented. Their work style is collaborative.
3. They want to hear from senior management via feedback, open communication, and recognition.
4. They want even more flexible hours and greater work–life balance.
5. They are creative and inquisitive. Knowing “why” is important to this generation. They are unafraid to challenge ideas, methods, processes, and the status quo.
6. They want to improve and grow professionally through training and mentoring.
7. They are service-oriented, care about the environment, and rely heavily on social media.
8. They want to make a difference in the world.
At the core of all of these changes is technology. It allows people to work remotely, collect information immediately, collaborate effectively, and gain access to global markets and information. Employees also can seek out new job functions, making talent retention more challenging today than ever before. So a workforce with technology at their fingertips presents daunting challenges for today’s leaders. In this world, it’s change or die.
Successful evolved leaders constantly adapt to the changing times. They tend to:
- Be strategic thinkers
- Lead by example and build relationships
- Communicate the mission, vision, and goals clearly
- Build high-performing teams
- Serve as a coach and mentor
- Be servant leaders
- Look for ways to knock down barriers
- Set ego aside
- Be collaborative
- Listen with empathy
- Get input from diverse views, gain consensus, and get alignment
- Embrace diversity
- Be flexible and agile (and can deal with ambiguity)
- Have exceptional communication skills
- Be accepting of failure (and uses it as an opportunity to learn)
- Move the needle, drives results, and gets things done
- Exhibit resilience
Evolved leaders are front-and-center and welcome scrutiny from both employees and the public. They understand the need to leverage technological tools and harness cross-generational work styles, and they are astutely aware of the importance and influence of social networks.